RE: Hormel Foods,
clips clippings -- Oct. 11, 200 67
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By Tim Ruzek
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By BRYAN CLAPPER email@example.com
At 88, I.J. Holton can still quickly display the wit and dry sense of humor so many of his friends and acquaintances know him for.
Holton, the former CEO of Geo. A. Hormel & Company (now Hormel Foods Corporation), was awarded the Austin Area Chamber of
Commerce's Lifetime Achievement Award Wednesday. After a lengthy and accolade-filled introduction by longtime friend and past lifetime achievement award winner Kermit Hoversten, Holton waited for the audience at Lansing Corners Supper Club to quiet down and said, “The only thing missing is a coffin.”
Holton moved to Austin in 1947 after a military career during which he worked for Gen. George Patton, served in the invasion of Normandy, and earned five campaign stars during his rise from the rank of private to captain and eventually a battlefield promotion to major. Holton was orignally hired at Hormel as one of two lawyers in the company's legal department, but rose through the ranks until being named CEO in 1972. He retired a decade later and still lives in Austin.
“I'm very high on Austin. Adelaide and I decided at the time of retirement that this would be our home,” Holton said. “This is home. This has been home, and at age 88, I'm determined it will be home as long as it can be.”
Holton's wife of 66 years, Adelaide, died in June.
Hoversten described his friend, “Jim” Holton, as “militantly modest” and someone who acts selflessly.
“He's the kind of person who makes substantial contributions but a lot of what he does, he does anonymously,” Hoversten said. “You won't find many people with his energy and his ability to get up and get things done.”
Holton is regarded as a driving force behind building a new flagship plant for Hormel in Austin, which opened in 1982. The 1 million square-foot, $100 million construction project was the largest in Hormel history.
“We cannot underestimate how important that was for the city of Austin,” Hoversten said.
During his time with Hormel and after his retirement, Holton was active in many community organizations, and was the director of the Austin YMCA and the Mower County chapter of the American Red Cross, the president of the Austin Community Scholarship Committee, the chairman of the Austin Public Library fundraising campaign, and a member of the American Legion and CFW, among other groups.
“The city of Austin today is a better place because Jim and his wife decided to stay here,” Hoversten said. Holton displayed both the wit and modesty his friends know him for in receiving the award.
“When I received the letter from Sandy (Forstner, chamber executive director), my first thought was ‘who needs it,' but then I thought about it, and these are the people who have supported me over the years, especially when things got rough, to say the least,” Holton said.
He said he is “enormously pleased” with the progress his past company has made, and said, “I think the golden years have been with us and will continue a long time.”